News Briefs

Missouri Senate passes charter funding compromise, moving bill step closer to governor’s desk

By: - April 20, 2022 11:53 am

A compromise to increase funding for charter schools now heads to the Missouri House (Photo courtesy of CDC/ Amanda Mills).

A bill that would infuse charter schools with additional state funds is one step closer to becoming law after concerns about the proposal’s cost were overcome.

On Wednesday, senators passed the bill by a vote of 29 to 5. It now heads back to the House, where the chamber can either vote to send the bill to Gov. Mike Parson or request the Senate agree to revisions.

For several years charter school proponents have urged lawmakers to equalize funding for charter schools. The current funding method relies on outdated property values, resulting in charter schools in Kansas City receiving about $1,700 less per student on average, while in St. Louis the amount was $2,500.

A new version of the bill was unveiled earlier this month that would close the gap in funding for charter schools through the state’s foundation formula, the method by which Missouri calculates aid for schools, rather than by transferring funds from traditional school districts. St. Louis Public Schools and public education advocates had been staunchly opposed to the latter option.

State Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield (photo courtesy of Missouri Senate Communications).

But the compromise stalled for a week over the bill’s new cost, with some lawmakers pointing to the estimated additional $62 million in state funds that would be spent initially as a result of the new charter funding mechanism.

The cost is “a little big,” Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, said during a Senate Committee on Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight hearing Tuesday afternoon.

“This also would put the state on the hook for future charter schools and their funding equity so to speak as well,” said Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield and chair of the committee, noting costs would then grow from the fiscal analysis’ estimates.

The bill ultimately passed out of the committee by a vote of six to one, with Hough the lone vote in opposition.

The bill also includes additional accountability measures for charter schools and new provisions regarding virtual education, like giving parents the ultimate say on whether their child enrolls in Missouri’s virtual education program.

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Tessa Weinberg
Tessa Weinberg

Tessa Weinberg covered education, health care and the legislature with the Missouri Independent. She previously covered the Missouri statehouse for The Kansas City Star and The Columbia Missourian, where her reporting into social media use by the governor prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. She also covered state government in Texas for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.